We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
TO OCT. 14
Arthur Szyk, political cartoonist and biblical illustrator, once wrote, “The origin of all art is what we call propaganda. The art of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance was the propaganda of religion. I do not say that art is my aim; art is my means.” Whether Szyk was using his drawings to advocate opposition to Germany during World War II or the establishment of a Jewish state in its aftermath, his aims were never subtle—and never off. He shot at the hearts and minds of his audience with illustrations that were like silver bullets, meant to slay the monstrous hypocrisies of the day. During his life, his caustic cartoons—which appeared prolifically in myriad newspapers and magazines—ridiculed the cowardice of the Axis (December 7, 1941 is pictured), canonized the heroism of the Allied troops, and illuminated the suffering of the Jews. He portrayed the horrors of the Holocaust with no shades of gray. In the world according to Szyk, there were good guys and bad guys. Good vs. evil. Right vs. wrong. His drawings had the moral complexity of Superman comics, and the dichotomy jibed perfectly with the polarized international politics of his lifetime. Since Sept. 11, President Bush has tried his hand at a similar task—dividing the world into those who are with us and those who are against us. So far, Bush has failed to pull off the trick. If he were alive today, could Szyk? His work is on view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday to Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday (beginning Friday, June 14, the museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily) at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW. Free. (202) 488-0400. (Felix Gillette)